Finding sunshine

We all go through moments in our lives when we take a step back and really start to wonder about where we are and what we’re doing. At least, I hope we do. I don’t think I’m an anomaly. But then again, it wouldn’t be the first time.

I will admit that since last July, things haven’t really been the same. And not that I expected it would be, but it’s amazing how quickly one word can change your outlook on a lot of things. Even if it’s the “good kind.”

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Cancer. Not a word you ever want to hear.

Sometimes I think back on the last almost-40-years of my life, and I wonder how I managed to survive it as intact as I am…and then I wonder if I really am. But the beauty of it all, is that no matter what you’re faced with, the only thing that matters is how you handle it.

And there’s only one person that gets to determine that…and that’s me.

My life growing up wasn’t easy. I learned quickly what it meant to love and lose. Death is nothing new to me. I’ve said goodbye to many people that I’ve loved…classmate, friends, family and more. Some of those goodbyes were difficult to get through, but I knew that it was a temporary goodbye.

I’ve seen medicine at its best. I’ve seen it fail as well. I watched my dad get a new lease on life with breakthrough treatments, my brother as well. I see what advances do for George every day. But I also know its limitations.

I know the miracle of birth, first hand. But I also know the pain associated with it. I was blessed with a “natural” birth for our first child, with an amazing epidural. But remember every second of a c-section that included a failed spinal. Which meant I felt every minute of it, until after our last son was safely born.

I’ve won some battles. And I’ve lost some. I’ve lost loved ones, I’ve gained a few. I lost my voice, it came back…just different.

But as I turn this page (yes, there’s a milestone birthday coming up soon), I realize that I need to focus on more sunshine. I need to find my joy in life and feed it. No one remembers your bad days, but you can influence people with good ones.

As I look to the future, I want my children to remember me as their ray of sunshine. And in order to do so, I have to find my own.

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You can hardly see my scar today. I’m blessed beyond measure.

And so here I am…wondering if the path I’m on will lead to my sunshine. The clouds outside do not deter me. I know what I’m destined for. I just need to outshine the rain clouds.

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Butterflies that bite

The symbol for thyroid problems is a butterfly…I’m guessing mostly because the thyroid is shaped like a butterfly, and not because it’s a beautiful and mystical creature that transforms from a caterpillar into a flying wonder. But maybe I’m wrong.

Anyway, I digress – I’ll blame my lack of a thyroid.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I was going to give a quick update.

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After my vocal chord was injected…a day I’d love to forget. But so grateful for the advances that allows little things like this to be easily “fixed.”

I had my thyroid removed a little over a month ago. The surgery was a success and I found out that I was lucky enough to have cancer on not one, but BOTH sides of my thyroid. Oh, and my vocal chord was paralyzed during the whole ordeal, which led to seven days of sounding like a chipmunk on helium. Did you know that shouting all the time, just to make enough noise to sound like a whisper, is exhausting? It is.

When the pathology report came back, the surgeon was surprised to learn that he did not remove multiple lymph nodes during the surgery. In fact, he managed to only catch one. That one was a clear lymph node, but not exactly a statistical slam-dunk when it comes to declaring lymph nodes cancer-free.

At my one week follow-up, the doctor felt that there was no predicting when my voice may return – if ever – and so he scheduled a surgery the next day to artificially prop up my vocal chord so that I could talk. It was supposed to be an “easy” 15-minute procedure.

But life never goes as expected, does it?

Things went a little haywire. I ended up with a chipped tooth and some sort of air pocket in my healing incision. Which led to me feeling as if I couldn’t breathe – or a condition they call stridor – where I sounded like a woman taking her last breath. It was scary. And it led to an unexpected stay in the hospital.

And now I’m waiting for another procedure. This time, after much discussion and thought, my endocrinologist recommends that we continue treatment with radioactive iodine. I can’t quite claim victory over cancer – but I’m a step closer.

My levels are wonky. My doctor is stumped. My voice comes and goes. My energy is non-existent. I’m crabby. I’m tired, but can’t sleep. My hair is falling out…again. And I’m gaining imaginary weight even though I’m eating less and exercising more.

***DISCLAIMER*** Moment of weakness and absolute honesty coming up: Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not mention to me in the next few days how I lucky I am to have the “easy” cancer.

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The scar looks pretty good for a month out? A blessing for sure.

OK…I’m better now. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Not the answer you’re hoping for…

It’s been a bit. I’d give some grand excuse, but the truth is…I’ve been tired. Bone-weary exhausted, to be closer to the truth. And I have a little better reason as to why, which I’ll share in a minute.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my thoughts and ideas on a few things, but here’s my one and only request: listen. Take a moment to truly hear what I’m trying to say, and then let me know what you think.

This community has been built up over time, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you that checks in on George, the farm, the boys, me…all of us. George is now stronger than ever. His care is on-point and he’s blossoming. EJ is bound and determined to be the best young farmer he can be – and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He reminds his Dad of all the things that need to get done…hoping to be assigned a chore or two (preferably one that involves him sitting in a tractor). Scooter has sprouted up taller than either of his parents and all of his grandparents. He has one uncle left to surpass in height. And I don’t think that will be long in coming. And Big Bro and his gentle soul will be a freshman this fall – how did that ever happen?

Life – it moves so quickly. And sometimes we forget to take a second and take it all in. We forget to enjoy the moment.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been feeling the best for a while. I joke around a lot that my thyroid isn’t a “team player.” And it’s true. It’s not. It’s been a problem for quite a few years. And now it’s causing a bit of a bigger problem – and it seems to be getting bigger rather quickly.

On July 5, I found out from a specialist that my biopsy had come back positive for thyroid cancer. Not the answer I was hoping for – but an answer, nonetheless.

After the initial shock, I met with the doctor the next day and we developed a plan – one that I’m more than excited to implement. You see, I realize that as far as cancers go, I’m pretty darn lucky. Thyroid cancer is an “easy” one. We’ll remove my thyroid, and as long as my surrounding lymph nodes come back clear and the pathology doesn’t show anything alarming, I’m pretty much home free. A few years of scans and appointments, but no further treatment needed at this point.

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I’ll be part of a thyroid-cancer research study. I’m excited for doctor’s to learn more about cases like mine…and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be more answers that we hope for in the future.

It could have been so much worse.

But it’s still the c-word. Cancer. Me. What???

I don’t have time for an illness, no matter how small. I’m busy. We had the county fair. I have things I need to do. I have games I want to watch. I have pool-dates to make up.

I have a chance to realize just how quickly it all can change.

And it’s all because it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for…but it was an answer that I could live with…and that’s the most important answer of all.